Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Volunteering at school

This post is about a father and daughter activity that is close to my heart even though it might not be the type of activity normally associated with the term.  Volunteering at your child’s school is an extremely rewarding way to be involved in your daughter’s life considering how much time she spends at school per week.  Additionally, it gives you multiple inside-tracks to the happenings at school including learning her schedule, meeting teachers (especially future teachers) and getting to know her friends.  All of this will become even more important as she grows.
This activity does have a shelf life since at a certain age, you daughter won’t want her dad at school so be sure to get in early.  The kids in the k-4th grade bracket are incredibly accepting and get as excited about you being there as you daughter does.   After only 2 times of being there for example, half of the kids run over to hug me or give fist bumps and I can’t go to the grocery store without hearing “Hi Mr. Walker!”. The teachers enjoy having a dad around too because usually the kids all behave better know a father is watching even if it isn’t theirs.
Your daughter will really feel proud to have her daddy at school and will introduce you to absolutely everyone until your hands are raw from shaking.  Some of my suggested activities to do when you are at your daughter’s school would be:
·         Greet kids in the morning or hold the door for them
·         Work in the library on your child’s library day
·         Work in the lunch room
·         Read to classes
·         Work the playground
·         Try to actually do an art project on art day if the teacher will let you
·         Help during gym time
You will get to see you daughter during all of these activities and you will continuously hear “That’s my Dad!” all day.

father daughter activities volunteering at school

This activity has a HUGE added benefit.  Other kids who need a father will naturally migrate to you and you’ll find yourself holding your daughter’s hand and a kid you’ve never met while walking to classes.  More importantly if you are willing, those children will use you to help themselves. I’d like to share the story of one of the most touching events that has ever happened to me which occurred because of my volunteering at the school.
A full two years ago, my daughter was in Kindergarten and I was extremely excited about being involved in the place where she spends so much time.  During one volunteer day, my daughter’s teacher asked if I could escort a young classmate to the book fair. His parents were going through a rather rocky patch in their marriage and he had been too upset to go on the official book fair day.  I of course agreed and we left for the library.
When we got there, I followed him around as he picked two books. One was a Pokemon book which he was obviously obsessed with and the other was a mystery book. Together they totaled 8 Dollars but, as I found out, he only had 5 with him.  I told him he couldn’t afford both and after an agonizing deliberation, he very gently set down the Pokemon book.  I jokingly said that he must REALLY like mysteries and he replied that he didn’t.  He was buying this book for his older sister so she would have something from him under the tree for Christmas.
It hit me how selfless this act was and only two days after he was very broken up at school. I silently had received a huge slap of reality and tears started welling up in my eyes. I told him that one of the most important lessons we have to learn is that when we do good things, good things happen to us. I then asked him to pick his book back up because I wanted to buy it for him to thank him for being such a caring person. After we checked out I told him to keep being so caring because someday HE would be the exact “good thing” that someone else needed.
Fast forward two years to this morning when I was walking my daughter in to school.  I saw the same child, said hello to him by name and heard him tell his mom that I was the person who had taken him to the book fair.  We dropped our children off and she stopped me on the way back to our car to tell me why the boy had pointed me out to her.
It seems that about 2 months after the fair the mother and father divorced and it took months for the mother to put things back together again.  On one of her first “good days” she had been trying her hardest to be a good mommy. At some point in the day her son ran from across the room to hug her. When she asked “what was that for” he replied that when we do good things, good things happen.
She said she had been praying for strength and a sign to show her things were going to be ok and when he said that, she absolutely fell apart.  They talked about where he had heard that saying and he told her about me and what I had said about being the “good thing” someone else needed.
I am a firm believer in planting seeds and this is a very good example of how volunteering can plant seeds in every child you encounter. Like me, you may not know for years that you are making a difference or you may never hear what an impact you have made but rest assured that just by being a father, being there and being kind you have touched more lives than you know.
One organization I joined was the Watch D.O.G.S. (Dad’s of great students) from the national center for fathering. Their goal is the same as mine. Just to get a strong male presence in schools to help deter horseplay and give kids a male role model who might not otherwise have one.  If you have time, read about them or watch this watchdog video.
Whether you do it through an organization or just by yourself, make one of your father-daughter activities volunteering at your daughter’s school.  She’ll love it and the benefit for you will make any effort worth your while.
Let’s get the dads in the schools!